Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Bassanio is "ambidexterous"? or Portia's a fag hag: The Merchant of Venice on Day 5 of TSI

A gorgeous and mild day in DC!

Lecture with Jay Halio:  Staging in The Merchant of Venice

Today, we started working on our second play of the Institute, Merchant of Venice (MV).

Jay discussed the printing of MV which appeared in the quarto and Folio editions of Shakespeare.  Little is known about the original productions except that Will Kemp played the clown Gobbo.  Shylock is seen as a tragic hero, yet the play is a comedy.  I can already see that this will be the crux of our discussions on the play.

Jay went through several productions of MV including the ones with Charles Macklin, Edmund Keane, and Olivier.  Olivier's production was set in Victorian England and has Antonio and Shylock as doppelgangers of one another.

An important distinction for me was that Shylock is not a representative Jew.  No Jew would take a vow to kill another and violate a commandment.  Tubal is more of a representation of the Jewish faith.  Also, no Jew would accept conversion.

Portia, who has the most lines in the play mirrors the angel who stops Isaac from killing his son in the Bible.

I learned so much from Jay, both from his lecture and the subsequent seminar where our group discussed the issues affecting teaching the play and some other themes.

There is antisemitism in the play but that does not mean the play is antisemitic. 

We discussed the Antonio-Bassanio relationship as homosexual.  Antonio reminds me of the sonnets we read yesterday where the lover cannot get the beloved to acknowledge their relationship publicly.  So if Bassanio is homosexual, why is he after Portia?  Jay's answer:  he's "ambidexterous"

Personally, I know a fag-hag when I see one and let me tell you...Portia is a fag hag!

Curriculum Workshop with Mike LoMonico and Sue Biondo-Hensch

Today we finished reviewing the videos we did yesterday and I discovered that the main objective of the lesson was a focus on the Other in Shakespeare ( I missed this yesterday in the hurried instructions).  So, our group had an idea about how to extend the activity using the three ways of evaluating Shakespeare:  theatrical, literary and cinematic.  We would watch videos and then have chart tablets for each group around the room.  Using the "gallery walk" idea, have students write down what the noticed about each group's use of the elements in their video.  The students can then draw connections between the videos and how we decide to portray the "other" in the plays.

We then did two really fantastic activities that are found in the Shakespeare Set Free Toolkit.

Fifteen minute Romeo and Juliet:  rather than attempting to shorten the play on your own, use this activity to have your class do actions for key lines and then read the summary.  After you have done this with your 6 classes (my schedule), how about doing it as a "flash mob" in the cafeteria the next day. Fun, fun, fun!

We then did the 32 second version of Macbeth.  Again, another way to front-load info for the play and have a blast.

Performance Workshop with Caleen

Caleen is the master at getting the actor out of you.  Our vocal and exercise warm ups alone are enough to have great respect for her.  Did I mention she LOVES Earth, Wind and Fire?

We had to perform today, and eventhough I was not feeling super at the end of the day, she managed to get it out of me.

I'm playing a person who has studied the "Art of Physic."  I hate Physics!

We are all extremely stressed about our deadlines and assignments.  Realistically, they are not that intense.  I think it is our desire to really please and make our TSI mentors proud that is making it hard on us.  We are so blessed to be here and hundreds of teachers would love to have this stress! (Devil Wears Prada reference anyone?)

1 comment:

  1. Great entry, GDawg. I agree about the assignments. That's why we're teachers -- it's WE who are intense. God forbid I lower my unrealistic standards this month! Not in front of all of you! Maybe we can help each other do some things that are just "good enough."